Portland Portfolio Reviewers Needed!

Are you a communications professional? Have at least a couple of years of experience under your belt? Want to hang out with our super smart undergrads for a day giving them your expert advice and helping guide their path toward a fruitful career?

Join us as a portfolio reviewer for our Winter term portfolio reviews, scheduled at the Turnbull Center on Friday, March 9th from 9am-5pm.

We need reviewers who can commit to either a morning shift (9-noon), and afternoon shift (1-5) or the whole live long day. Lunch will be provided.

If you’re not familiar with the reviews, here’s the scoop:

The PR Portfolio Reviews are designed to serve as a trial for about-to-graduate Public Relations Majors from the University of Oregon embarking on the search for their first professional job. These students have the opportunity to present key projects and receive valuable feedback from PR professionals on their class work, capstone course client work, internships and professional projects. Reviewers provide an evaluation on individual presentation styles, comments on the portfolio and offer ideas for improvement.

Each reviewer will participate on a panel with two or three professional peers. Each panel will, in turn, see one student per hour over the course of the review process.

Review appointments are 50 minutes long (with 10 minutes of flex time between each appointment). Students provide their panel with a 5 to 10 minute opportunity to review the portfolio, then students will present their portfolio for about 20 minutes. Following the presentation, students leave the room and the reviewers have an opportunity to discuss feedback they would like to give. Students return to the conference room and have the chance to engage with reviewers to learn how they can improve the presentation, the portfolio or both. Reviewers complete an evaluation form during the course of the review.

Thanks for considering! Email me at: kmatthew@uoregon.edu.

PR Sucks and Other Fallacies.

“…PR people are ruining social media…”

“…P.R. people drive me crazy…”

“…PR sucks…”

Okay, that last one is more of a paraphrase than a quote, but you get the point. PR has taken a bit of a lashing recently.

Beyond being tired, cliche and trite, the “PR Sucks” meme is an informal fallacy – a straw man argument. The assertion of  most of these pieces is that because much of PR (particularly agency work and especially over the last 20 years) has been focused on earned media (media relations), that PR people are not suited/incapable/really bad at social media strategy and implementation. That media relations models don’t work in the social world, so clearly we’re ill-suited.

But media relations of course is only one specialized function – this argument reveals more about the respective writers’ (lack of) experience or limited view of PR and its role in management than it does about the nature of the public relations profession.

The “PR Sucks” argument doesn’t get at the actual discussion we should be having. I would love to see the discussion focused on creating understanding what PR is and what it is not. Limiting public relations to any singular function – whether it’s media relations or event planning or speechwriting is not productive. The authors of such posts are being incendiary on purpose, of course. “If we flame them, they will come and comment and link back! yay!”

But in the process, the broad brush with which they paint is not flattering to them or to those they caricature. And disclaimers like, “some of my best friends are PR people…” doesn’t help.

Defining public relations is complicated to say the least. The nuance and context within which a public relations professional works is hard to pin down and even the scholars don’t agree. However, since this is my blog, I’ll offer that the best definitions of PR have three things in common:

  • The importance of research
  • The primacy of relationships
  • The central requirement of listening and responding

One of my favorite definitions is from Rex Harlow:

Public relations is the distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication as its principal tools.

Another from Carl Botan:

Using communication to adapt relationships between organizations and their publics.

Finally, from the Encyclopedia of PR (which I didn’t know existed), Robert Heath offers:

Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.

“Beneficial” relationships are not necessarily positive or the relationships that you enjoy building and maintaining. In fact, stakeholders may be the readers and viewers of media outlets, but they may also be employees, vendors, investors, neighbors, activists, government agencies, etc. Our focus in PR is not exclusively on the customer.

Creating a shared space for dialogue and feedback has been part of our job all along. Those “shared spaces” have taken real world shapes in the form of town halls, open houses, public comment opportunities, trade shows, desk-side briefings, CEO tours, and so on. But the online equivalents are a natural fit.

The problem, it seems, is the lack of understanding and “world view” of communications management by the PR Sucks crowd. Oh, and there are plenty of PR people who also lack understanding and “world view.” They’re the spammers, the bad pitchers, the flacks, the “smile and dial” publicists. But they are also not the norm.  Nor are they public relations professionals.

I lectured this week on the history of PR and I’m always invigorated by Arthur Page’s position on the role of public relations. Every time I get to this part of the lecture, I’m struck by how clearly his six principles often resonate with me and the work that I do as a public relations practitioner.

  • Tell the truth: Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of your organization’s character, ideals, and practices.
  • Prove it with Action: Public perception of an organization is based on 90% doing and 10% telling.
  • Listen: Understand what the organization’s publics want and need. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed about company products, policies and practices.
  • Manage for Tomorrow: Anticipate opportunities and challenges, eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.
  • Conduct PR as if the whole company depends on it: No strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public.
  • Remain Calm, Patient and Good-Humored: Lay the groundwork for PR miracles with consistent, calm and reasoned action to information and contacts. Cool heads communicate best. (my favorite)

I would love to hear from you. What do you think?

photo by Richard Sunderland

Finding Our Strengths

As the adviser for Allen Hall Public Relations, I spend a minority of my time teaching specific public relations skills. A minority would be an overstatement. It’s a sliver, a fraction… not much at all. So what do I spend most of my time doing? Mentoring and coaching students on how to be effective leaders, counselors and teammates.

Every year we tweak and morph, change and adapt, looking for the key to creating strong foundations, building communications skills and prepping these young professionals to be strong leaders. Every year it seems we don’t quite make it… AHPR members are always awesome. ALWAYS. But I usually feel like there was more I could do.

This year, I invited Corinne McElroy from Edge of Change to facilitate a workshop focused on the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and assessment. I had the pleasure of being part of a workshop Corinne led earlier this year as part of my role on the Board of Directors of Committed Partners for Youth/Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lane County and knew immediately that it would be invaluable for AHPR.

The premise of StrengthsFinder 2.0 book/assessment is that if we focus on what we’re good at, we can be more effective and efficient. Spending time getting better at what we’re “bad” at is not terribly productive. Yes, that’s an oversimplification, but I think it works.

Let me give you a personal example. My top five strengths are: strategic, input, ideation, activator and positivity. What I learned through the workshop I did this summer and reading the material was that this means I’m a thinker. Most of what’s going on with me is in my noodle.

That was a big “a ha!” for me. It’s helped me understand that I need to do a better job of articulating what I’m thinking – otherwise I can seem a little pushy with my ideas and maybe even (gasp!) aloof.

The reality? I’ve been thinking about everything you’ve said, everything I’ve read and muddled it around until I feel like I can make the right recommendation. I’m not very good coming up with recommendations on my feet (unless it’s a situation I’ve encountered before) – and now I know why! I would often feel like I was lacking some skill or talent when I couldn’t speak extemporaneously like I saw colleagues do brilliantly. But all of those skills often mean I’m very deliberate and intentional and when I make a recommendation and I do so with conviction. It’s also helped me to embrace those things I’m good at naturally and focus my efforts more productively.

So, all that to say that I saw the SAME “a ha!” moments with my students as they discovered how their strengths manifest themselves in their daily life. The beauty of everyone going through this together is that we now all have a shared vocabulary. “You’re an achiever, so you need to be careful about taking on too much!” or “Because you’re a maximizer, it’s important to know when good enough is good enough.”

The workshop allowed students to do that individually, but also as an agency and in their client teams. So we have a profile of the agency (we are achievers, futuristic and maximizers!) and then each client team also has their profile. This is powerful stuff for student leaders to know and to be able to use.

Because one of my strengths is “positivity” (it means exactly what you think it means), I also love that the StrengthsFinder is such a positive affirmation that students are awesome! And that they come to the table with so much to offer. I heard some students beforehand talk about what an “ego boost” just taking the assessment was and how this can help boost their confidence in client situations.

None of this was technical or tactical. We barely even said the phrase “public relations.” It was all about connecting to each other and helping members step into their strengths as individuals, in teams and with the agency.

Even if you’re not in an organization that can participate in a workshop, get the book! Get it for yourselves and your teammates and dig in on your own. Or call Corinne. 🙂

But don’t take it from me! Here are some things that the members of AHPR had to say about the process:

Karly Bolton, AHPR Firm Director (Twitter)

I love StrengthsFinder! Corinne’s workshop came at the perfect time–it was only our third meeting, so Sam and I were thrilled to see new and returning members chatting and bonding over their shared and different strengths. The best thing about this exercise is that now we not only know our own strengths, but the strengths of our teammates, which will come in handy when it’s time to divide client tasks and projects. The only problem at the end of the night–I NEED to know the StrengthsFinder results of everyone I know!

Shawna Haynes (blog, twitter)

The workshop taught me that it is ok to have things we are not the best at. I am a maximizer too and I learned a lot about how to capitalize on it instead of letting it get the best of me. I also learned how to focus on what I do good instead of what I cannot do all that well. It was great to get to talk with others and find out how we can all work as a group to unitize each others strengths too. I think we have a great group and that it will be an excellent year!

Jenna Cerruti (twitter)

The workshop taught me to capitalize on my strengths instead of correct my weaknesses. I realized that I do focus on my weaknesses a lot more, and by trying to improve things about myself that I’m just not naturally good at, I am diminishing efficiency and confidence in my work. It would be much more beneficial (to me and my prospective employers) if I applied my strengths, which I learned are maintaining relationships and executing projects through strategic thinking.

Guest Post: Bright Lights, Big City – UO Duckling Heads to Chicago

saramaya weissman in chicago

Kelli’s Note: I am thrilled to host this guest post from Saramaya Weissman. Chicago is that city that ‘in another life’ I would love to live in. So proud of her for taking this chance and making it work! Saramaya is a 2010 graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She currently lives in Chicago and interns at Edelman Public Relations. You can reach her via Twitter at @SaramayaFaye.

Exactly three months after I graduated from the University of Oregon I started an amazing and ideal internship at Edelman Public Relations in their co-global headquarters of Chicago. I’m SO thrilled to be here, but the job hunting journey this summer and figuring out “what’s next?” was no easy path.

From a small town in beautiful north Idaho to wonderfully hipster Eugene, I was dying for a big city and had my eyes set on Chicago. After months of applying online, networking events in Oregon, and only a few actual interviews, my resume was unnoticed and I graduated unemployed. But with seven internships and numerous awards, I had confidence I’d be hired soon…right?

The summer flew by and I was still floating around in Eugene. Living off graduation gift money and honestly, feeling like a failure, I wondered when and if I’d ever get my foot in the door. I still had my eyes set on Chicago, but there was one minor issue: I’d never been there before and knew absolutely no one in the Midwest, let alone the Windy City. So, what did I do? Network baby, network.

So, I decided to just do it and do it now. I booked a ticket to Chicago for 10 days and started intense trip prep. I contacted everyone I knew from peers and professors to coworkers and family. “I’m going to Chicago in three weeks, know anyone I can set up an informational interview?!” From there, my trip planned itself. I took advantage of my current network and created one in Chicago.

My trip to Chicago included hours of exploration and meeting with amazing individuals (some fellow alum) in the communications world. After stopping by Google, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Cubs, and multiple PR agencies – I kept thinking, “This is great! I’m actually establishing my network,” and hoping to come back soon for real interviews. Little did I know, I’d be moving in two short weeks for an internship at one of the largest independent public relations firms in the world and recently named Advertising Age’s Top-Ranked PR Firm of the Decade.

Special shout out to Kelli Matthews who connected me with a fellow alum at Edelman in Chicago. I met with him, HR, and a junior employee (each individually) on a Tuesday, was asked to take the writing test on Wednesday, had a second interview with senior executives on Thursday, and offered a three-month paid internship on Friday! The day I flew out from Chicago was the day I started planning my move back (across eight states). I did it! I was aggressive with networking (both old and new contacts) and it was worth it! I felt (and still am) ecstatic!

My words of advice if you’re still on the hunt (or feeling like you are in the back-up plan) – don’t settle for anything (in my case, I needed a city and one not in the Northwest). Go for what you want and you absolutely will find it. Just remember to remain confident and even when you might feel like a failure (and I definitely did), know that you simply haven’t found the right fit yet. Just keep looking and you will absolutely find it.

Guest Post: Embracing the Next Phase

This guest post is from my Twitter friend, Kellye Crane. Kellye is one of those PRos that I always recommend students follow. She’s super smart and has good advice for PR people at all levels.

As the school year draws to a close, I’m sure many PRos in Training are thinking about the future, and pondering what Modern PR means today. Whether you’re on the job market, starting an internship, beginning a new position or just trying to keep up with the latest advancements, you’ve no doubt heard and read a great deal about the vast changes taking place in the approach to public relations.

As current students know, whether it’s called PR 2.0, New PR, or some other catchy label, it’s clear that public relations is moving into a new age. At the forefront of this evolution is PR’s incorporation of a more conversational approach to communications, made possible – and necessary – by social media.

All this change can feel a bit intimidating, but the good news is this is truly an exciting time! Those who stay abreast of the changes and adapt to the evolving climate will thrive. If you’re worried, I’m going to let you in on an open secret:

Today’s students are every bit as prepared as the more experienced PR pros to succeed in this fast-changing environment.

For most of the class of 2009, adapting to new technologies, conversing online and being authentic is second nature. Much of what my colleagues and I are trying to learn – from the social norms of texting to the unspoken rules of Facebook – is old hat to you. PR is going to look very different in the near future, and the truth is some of the experienced pros are set in their ways.

Of course, the fact that the methods of communicating have changed doesn’t alter the fundamentals of public relations we should all be practicing. This is where the PR veterans have much to teach new PR pros.

These circumstances create a unique opportunity for emerging and experienced PR pros to join forces for a perfect partnership of wisdom and new ideas. While it’s essential to give appropriate respect to your managers, at the same time you should feel comfortable to share your perspective. The best workplaces will welcome your input and – whether it’s used or not – you’ll be credited with thinking strategically.

Your fresh perspectives combined with the expertise of your senior colleagues will be a powerful alliance. Together, you’ll be unstoppable!

———-

Kellye Crane founded Crane Communications, LLC in 1995, and has 18 years of experience in strategic public relations and marketing communications. Her blog is Solo PR Pro and you can find her on Twitter at @KellyeCrane.

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But What if I Can’t Find a Job?

So you’re prepared to be the PRo of the future. Whoop-de-freakin-do. What if you still can’t find a job?

  • Be patient: It takes time to find a job. The average time is three to six months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes 2009 grads a bit longer (I know several ’08 grads who are still looking, too). Find a part-time job in the meantime doing something that’s not terribly painful – barista, retail, restaurant, or office – and just keep at it. The right job will come along.
  • Keep the End in Mind: Constantly looking for work for three, six, even nine months can be awfully discouraging. Stay motivated to reach your goal.
  • Volunteer: Especially if you’re a new grad, you have to keep your skills fresh and keep building your portfolio. Find a nonprofit that does something you’re excited about and offer to help with their PR or help build a social media plan. Even a few hours a week can help you add some good work to your resume and you’ll keep learning. And you never know who you will meet.
  • Network virtually & in person: Most jobs are not found by applying to a help wanted ad. You need to be networking! Know what kind of job you want and tell everyone you know. This post from the NYT Career Couch column has some terrific tips. A good network is not all about you. Figure out how to make it reciprocal. Participate in Twitter, have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile (with recommendations!), and clean up your Facebook page.
  • READ! READ! READ!: You must stay up to date with the goings-on in the industry in which you intend to work. Read PRWeek, subscribe to the bevy of smart PR bloggers (see my blogroll to the right for some places to get started). In addition, set Google and Twitter alerts for your dream job (company, clients, principals, industry, trends). That’ll give you something to talk about at the interview.

What tips do you have? How do you stay motivated and keep your PR brain working while you job search?

Image via Flickr from Thewmatt

What Does the PRo of the Future Look Like?

The very ground on which we stand in public relations is shifting. Like tectonic plates colliding miles under the surface, these changes are shaking up the industry. The PRos of the future will need to have different skills and use more traditional skills in new ways. These changes are creating new opportunities for smart, creative thinkers.

John Bell at Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence Team offers 13 skills that will be required for PR professionals to succeed in the future. His PR Brain for 2009 looks different than the PR brain looked even seven years ago when I finished my undergrad degree.


You can read John’s post, but the point of his skills that I take away are that you have to be quick, responsive (not reactive) and creative. You also must know how to think in terms of measurement, ROI and be able to talk business.

Katie Paine offers six skills that PRos of the future need to have in a recent newsletter article. Katie offers that incoming professionals must be able to listen, create campaigns with the audience in mind and value truth and transparency. She reinforces John’s point about measurement. PR professionals must know how to measure and make decisions based on data.

They’ll make decisions based on data, not gut feelings. Yes the gut will still be a powerful tool, but in an environment that morphs faster than you can say “Utterli, Seesmic, Plurk, and Twittergrader,” the gut will be a very difficult thing to read and rely upon.

Amy Ziari, rounds out these three recent posts with insights from a (fairly) recent grad. Amy is an Oregon alum and has a very forward looking perspective about new PR grads as the future of the industry. She offers this:

I’m proposing that recent grads have such an incredible knowledge source at their fingertips. We will be the leaders in advancing our profession forward, and teaching our agencies and many of our coworkers about these changes. We will also be the ones brainstorming ways to take our profession to the next level in the future as human communications and media continue to evolve. We are a generation like no other. That can offer to our profession like no other.

I am excited for my students. It’s a new world with tremendous opportunity and they will be ready for the future.

What do you think? What skills do new PRos need to have? How is the industry changing?

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